Kathy Cleland on Mon, 9 Feb 1998 12:37:52 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Code Red Review

Code Red @ The Performance Space
By Kathy Cleland

[First published in the free monthly magazine 'Realtime']

see also: http://www.rtimearts.com/~opencity/

Code Red was the third in a series of Australian Network for Art and
Technology initiated events over the past few years bringing international
new media artists and theorists to Australia to engage with Australian
practitioners and theorists. The previous initiatives, Virogenesis 1 & 2,
curated by Francesca da Rimini, played on the metaphor of viral infection
and replication, international guests, Graham Harwood, Matt Fuller and E.
"Gomma" Guaneri, spreading their own strain of subversive politicised
commentary on new media culture and production and finding willing hosts
and co-conspirators in the Australian new media community.

Building on the successes of these earlier events, Code Red, curated by
Julianne Pierce, brought together an impressive lineup of international and
Australian-based theorists and artists to interrogate and critique
contemporary information culture. Following the theme suggested by its
title, Code Red acted as a timely alert or call to arms for the Australian
new media arts community calling attention to the growing commercialisation
and state/corporate control of contemporary media and information culture
as well as suggesting strategies for intervention and resistance. It is
only possible to give a small taste of these presentations here but if your
tastebuds are stimulated keep an eye on the ANAT website
http://www.anat.org.au/projects where the papers will be going up soon and
you can find links to related websites.

Geert Lovink's (Netherlands) keynote address "Strategies for Media
Activism" outlined his personal commitment to "cyber pragmatism and media
activism" in the face of an international climate of increasing media
monopolies, surveillance and censorship. "New media is a dirty business,
full of traps and seductive offers to work 'for the other side'", he
cautioned, suggesting that artists and activists need to develop and defend
spaces on the Internet which are independent of both State and commercial
interests. By way of example he discussed the practice of a number of
autonomous organisations in Europe which are working to promote access to
and critique of new media.

Jeffrey Cook (Merlin/MetaBody CD-ROM) also spoke of the need for
techno-activism and the importance of a critical art practice in
maintaining "a radical position in the homogenous soup of mainstream media
and information". The imminent prospect of WebTV threatens to undermine the
most positive and productive feature of the Internet, its facilitation of
many-to-many communication with active participation by users to a dumbed
down space for endless re-runs of sitcoms, commercials and infotainment.
Free speech and expression of ideas on the Internet are also under threat
in Australia by a proposed web rating system that would require ISPs to
ensure that all the websites they host carry a rating which will
distinguish 'safe' from 'unsafe' websites. This would allow browsers to
lock out 'undesirable' sites leading to further marginalisation of much of
the more challenging and creative content.

In her presentation "Luminous", Linda Wallace took a pragmatic approach to
the vexed questions of corporate/state funding for artists, challenging
notions that corporate money is "dirty" and state money "pure". She
emphasised the fundamental importance for artists of the work itself and
"having the space and time and funds to create it". She drew on her own
experience of seizing opportunities in either the state or corporate sector
and performing the difficult juggling act of "taking the funds but still
having the space to speak freely".

The final two presentations were by artists. Australian new media artist
Brad Miller's "Art in the Age of Collaboration" discussed and advocated the
collaborative art practice that is a feature of much new media work such as
Miller's own collaboration with theorist Mackenzie Wark in the production
of the CD-ROM "Planet of Noise".

Cornelia Sollfrank's "The Production of Visibility" described strategies
for parodying and subverting the power structures and advertising images of
the media, business and public authorities. Using a technique of
"over-coding", she takes already existing media images from advertising and
promotional material (a technique she calls "ready-aesthetics") and
subjects them to a process of "concept-hacking" to make visible their
latent power-strategies. Cornelia is also a founding member of the German
new media performance group -Innen who use similar techniques and have
successfully infiltrated European computer fairs posing as trade fair
assistants handing out mousemats with subversive messages to unsuspecting

In addition to the main conference, Code Red included a number of artist
projects and presentations in The Performance Space gallery. Visiting from
Slovenia, Marko Peljhan's exhibition and performance piece "178EAST -
ANOTHER OCEAN REGION" was the culmination of a two week residency at The
Performance Space researching Australian telecommunication laws and using
satellite technology to intercept transmissions in the radio space above
Australia. Part of this research included resulted in a guest appearance by
Adam Cobb (Visiting Research Fellow, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre,
ANU, Canberra) and the grafting of a satellite dish onto the roof of The
Performance Space. Marko's performance elicited audience complicity as
participants were required to sign a confidentiality agreement stating they
would not seek to record or disclose any of the intercepted material they
were eavesdropping on.

Also dealing with themes of surveillance and privacy was Australian-based
Zina Kaye's "(Humble Under Minded) Psychic Rumble Part 2" which recorded
and broadcast over the Internet ambient sounds and mutated snatches of
conversation from the Performance Space gallery. Another event taking place
in the gallery on the day of the conference was an on-line performance "The
Word:The Wall" directed by Ann Morrison exploring the anarchic lives and
environments of three virtual characters.

One of the most productive and useful features of Code Red was its
facilitation of on-going debate and discussion between conference delegates
and participants. Issues raised in the conference itself were followed up
on subsequent days with two roundtables. The first roundtable (lead by
Geert Lovink and Australian media theorist McKenzie Wark) focussed on new
media theory and strategies for communication and critique, the second
(lead by Cornelia Sollfrank and Julianne Pierce) discussed cyberfeminist
practice and the creation of a 'global' cyberfeminist movement, issues that
were the focus of the First Cyberfeminist International held during last
year's Documenta X in Kassel.

A Code Red outcome of particular interest to the Australian new media
community is the creation of a new Australian/Asia Pacific email mailing
list. The new list :::recode::: will be hosted by autonomous.org (System X)
with support from ANAT and will be a site for critical commentary and
debate by practitioners and critics on contemporary new media, online and
digital culture as well as providing an outlet for publishing material
online. Those interested in subscribing to the list or who want more
information should contact the list moderator: owner-recode@autonomous.org

Code Red was a project of the Australian Network for Art and Technology and
The Performance Space curated by Julianne Pierce with support from the New
Media Arts Fund of the Australia Council, the Goethe Institut, ABC Radio
and the Arts Law Centre of Australia.


Kathy Cleland: 

Street Level
PO BOX 188  Randwick  NSW 2031
ph +61 2 9314 5786
mob. 0412 315299
email: cc@cybercultures.asn.au

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